Health policy expert says trust is needed for Alberta’s overdose response app to work

CALGARY – Health policy expert says Alberta’s enforcement to keep drug users safe from overdose is a laudable endeavor, but fears fear may prevent many from using it .

Elaine Hyshka, assistant professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Alberta, said drug users might be concerned about their privacy or fear the police would show up at their doorstep if the app activates while they overdose.

The digital overdose response system, which is already in use in Calgary, Edmonton and their surrounding communities, has a timer and if users do not respond within a certain time after consuming a narcotic, EMS is sent to their homes. .

Prime Minister Jason Kenney, who has been criticized for his government’s shutting down of supervised injection sites, told a press conference at a Calgary drug recovery center on Saturday that many people are dying of Opioid overdoses are found in the suburbs, far from the sites.

Kenney says the app will always be in contact with them with the help they need if they pass out while using drugs.

But Hyshka says the province has a lot of work to do to get drug users to trust the app.

“What we’ve seen in other jurisdictions that have had these apps for much longer, like British Columbia, is that they are useful for some people but they are not really widespread – there is no widespread adoption, ”Hyshka said in an interview on Saturday.

“It’s not a bad thing to have an app. In fact, I think it’s very important to try new things that we’ve never done before to get the situation under control, but we just need to do due diligence to make sure it works well for people.

Eric Engler, spokesperson for Mental Health and Addiction Minister Mike Ellis, said in an email that there have been more than 650 downloads of the DORS app with more than 230 registered users. .

“The DORS app works as expected and provides an answer to those who need it,” Engler said, noting that it is a “confidential and anonymous service”.

Last month, the province said an average of four people a day die of overdoses in Alberta.

Engler said 70% of opioid-related deaths occur at home.

Kenney, who along with Ellis announced additional drug treatment spaces on Saturday, said the app is reaching users where they are.

“Most of the people who die from opioid overdoses are not homeless on the downtown streets. Most of these deaths are in suburban homes, often middle class people who will not drive downtown to a safe consumption site, ”Kenney told reporters.

“We have to go where the people are, and that includes the people who consume at home. “

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on December 4, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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